"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Craig Latham: Good Memories

I spent my summer of '65 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, a very large suburb of Boston. I was a camp counselor for the Mt. Bowdoin YW/YMCA. I was just a young kid in a big city.  It would be the first of a couple of summers doing this job for my foster-brother, Buzz.

I made many new friends while I was there. Being from another state (Ohio), everyone accepted me into their circle of friends. I was known as "The Hair from Ohio".

One particular counselor that I met was named Ned Ford. He was chubby-faced with red-hair, funny and an all-around good guy from a neighborhood made up of all races. There was always turmoil amongst the different kids there, but being the outsider, I got along pretty well with everyone.

At the end of the summer and the last weekend of camp, the others threw me a going away party. At the party were Mike, Linda, Janet (my first girlfriend ... lol), Ned, Rich and even several more. The party broke up around midnight. Everyone gave me a gift or card and we talked about the past summer -- the trips with the kids to the beach, the amusement parks, zoos and how we would remain friends and write. This didn't happen (except for Janet --we wrote every week for about five months). Ned was one of the last to leave and as he said his good-byes, the last thing he said was "We'll meet again, my friend", and then he was gone.

Now we'll skip forward six years. It's August '71.  I'm a combat writer/photographer in Vietnam and I'm "SHORT".  This means I only have a few days left before I rotate home, back "To The World". I had an assignment at Firebase Tomahawk, the blown off top of a small mountain where artillery units were and infantry companies worked out of.

It was late in the week and I didn't want to spend any more time outside the wire at Phu Bai than I had to. I'd made it through my year and all I could think about was going home. There were no more helicopters coming into Tomahawk until Saturday. Tomahawk was about 20 miles or so from Phu Bai.  There was some daylight left, so I decided to try and hitchhike back.

I figured once I humped (hiked) down the road from Tomahawk to QL1 (major highway from Dang to Phu Bai), it shouldn't be a problem getting a ride. I had my rifle, ammo, and ruck to carry. I finally flagged down an Army truck (a deuce-n-1/2), climbed into the back and off we went. There were two guys in the front and me in the back.

The driver asked where I was going and, when I said Phu Bai, he said no problem. I noticed the driver kept looking at me and it was giving me an uneasy feeling. Several times he actually turned around in his seat to look my way. It wouldn't be the first time someone got mugged in the service and now I was getting jittery. Here I had survived my year only to get mugged.

About halfway between one of the villages and Phu Bai, the driver pulled the truck over to the side of the road and stopped -- right in the middle of Bum-Fucked-Egypt. Then I got worried. He got out and walked around to the back of the truck, looked at me and asked, "Do you have a brother?" I said no and he turned and headed back to the front of the truck but then he turned around again, came back, and asked, "Are you SURE you don't have a brother named BUZZ?" Then I noticed the red-hair and his boyish look. Although I had no real brother, BUZZ was my foster-brother who I worked for in Dorchester and I realized who this red-haired soldier was. It was Ned Ford.

We started to chat but then realized it was getting late and it wasn't a good idea to be outside the wire with just the three of us so we headed on to Phu Bai. He dropped me at Brigade HQ and went to park his truck. We had agreed we would meet up at the EM Club after chow.

It turned out that Ned was on his last truck run when he picked me up.  In two days he was headed back home. We had quite a few beers that night. He had been living not more than 100 yards from me for the past year. We had probably passed each other a few times at chow when I wasn't with an infantry unit or at a Firebase. When the night was over, he said, "See, I told you we would meet again". This time no promises were made, but it was nice to know that I was remembered.

Ned moved to New York after that summer in Dorchester. I would hope that somehow he might read this. I doubt it, but you never know. Stranger things have happened.

By the way, "Welcome Home Ned".

Craig Latham
34th PID
101st Airborne Div. (Ambl)
Phu Bai, S. Vietnam

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale


  1. Hi Craig,
    I found you online - when I was a teenager I used to go to the Mt. Bowdoin YMCA but it was later than 65 - more like 67 - 69
    I've been searching for a woman that worked there as a counselor- her name was Margie Sutler and she was extremely kind to me when I was going through a tough time - I still have a letter that she wrote to me. Do you have any contacts from that time that I could talk to?
    Thanks so much
    Lisa from Massachusetts

  2. Lisa,
    I've been searching for people from there myself. One in particular was Janet Rose. She lived around the corner off of Dakota on Greenbrier St. I guess the Mt. Bowdoin "Y" is no longer there.
    I wish I could help you. My e-mail is: craigers_09@yahoo.com


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